No question the Eagles are doing the right thing cutting ties with Jason Peters. They’ve got to get younger. They’ve got to get healthier. They’ve got to trust their draft decisions. I wrote about that a couple weeks ago.
That said, it’s easy to understand why the Eagles might be a little reticent to turn left tackle over to Andre Dillard. And if Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson needed two months of the offseason to make this decision, that’s understandable. It’s not easy to say good-bye to a legend. And it’s not easy to turn left tackle over to someone you may have some valid doubts about. No matter where you drafted him.
And let’s be honest. Dillard didn’t make this a no-brainer.
Dillard played well in his three starts in place of Peters. At times he played very well. In the wins over Buffalo and Chicago he even showed a strong knack for run blocking, which was the big question hanging over him coming into the league.
The Eagles ran for 218 against the Bills in Buffalo and 146 against the Bears and those were both top-10 run defenses. That was by far the most rushing yards against Buffalo this year and 4th-most against the Bears.
Dillard can play. We’ve seen it. I don’t worry about that end of it.
But then, just a few weeks later, came the right tackle debacle.
When Lane Johnson was unable to play against the Seahawks because of a concussion, Dillard got the start, even though he had never played the position before.
It was a disaster.
Dillard never embraced the move. He spoke the Friday before the Seattle game about how trying to play right tackle was like a right-handed person trying to write an essay with their left hand.
That's basically it,” he said. “Write with your left hand. Think about how that would feel. … You do one thing one way for 10 years, like I have, then everything about you is geared toward that. You flip it, your brain's like, 'Oh heck.’
Football is hard. And let’s be honest. Dillard came across that week as soft.
We’ve seen plenty of guys play right tackle and left tackle and just roll up their sleeves and just go play football. Heck, Big V did it. Todd Herremans did it. Heck, King Dunlap did it.
When it’s accurate or not, Dillard came across as entitled. Like right tackle was below him. And then he played like it.
Dillard was defeated before kickoff.
Not surprisingly, he was benched at halftime.
Think about the guys we’re talking about.
Peters was undrafted. Big V was a 5th-round pick. Herremans was a 4th-round pick. Dunlap was a 7th-round pick. Pryor was a 6th-round pick. Look at Dunlap. Guy was the 230rd pick in the 2008 draft but lasted nine years in the NFL because of his ability to adapt and get the most out of his ability.
The fact that Dillard, the 22nd pick in last year’s draft, couldn’t make that adjustment is disturbing.
And really, it almost seemed like he didn’t want to make that adjustment. And that’s way worse.
The Eagles traded up for Dillard. They put a lot of money in his pocket, as Howie Roseman likes to say. They made a significant commitment to him.
And it’s totally understandable if that right tackle episode gave Doug Pederson, Jeff Stoutland and Howie Roseman some doubts about his ability to handle everything the NFL throws at you.
Dillard is a sensitive kid. He spoke after the season to my colleague Dave Zangaro about how mean the fans in Philly were and what an adjustment the NFL was after playing in Pullman, in “the middle of nowhere.”
Dillard can play. I’m convinced of that. I was encouraged by what I saw against the Cowboys, Bills and Bears. He’ll never be a Jason Peters, but he’s a capable guy.
I don’t worry about what Dillard can do physically. We’ve all seen it.
I do worry about the rest of his make-up. Because we’ve all seen that, too.
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